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What It really Means To Be Successful. Metrics, Goals, Key Performance Indicators, & Success?

Today there are several factors that determine success including “job snobbery,” the myth of a pure meritocracy, and soaring expectations of achievement, opportunity and equality, feed sweeping “career anxiety.”

“We live in an age when our lives are regularly punctuated by career crises.”

We should pursue the worthy ideal of meritocracy but we must recognize that it is unattainable in pure form.

“There is…a real correlation between a society that tells people that they can do anything and the existence of low self-esteem.”

Striking a balance will lead to a more realistic, compassionate understanding of success and failure. Failure should not make someone a “loser,” nor does a career reflect a person’s value.

“Your position in life comes to seem not accidental, but merited and deserved.”

Reevaluate your assumptions about success, and acknowledge what you will lose in pursuing your vision of it.

“What I want to argue for is not that we should give up on our ideas of success, but we should make sure that they are our own.”

Be “the author” of your “own ambitions” rather than blindly accepting what success means to others or your the company you work for.



A Kinder, Gentler Philosophy of Success Book Cover A Kinder, Gentler Philosophy of Success
TED Conferences LLC
Alain de Botton
Philosopher. Author of Essays in Love and How Proust Can Change Your Life.


It started in 1997, when Alain de Botton turned away from writing novels and instead wrote a touching extended essay titled How Proust Can Change Your Life, which became an unlikely blockbuster in the "self-help"category. His subsequent books take on some of the fundamental worries of modern life (am I happy? where exactly do I stand?), informed by his deep reading in philosophy and by a novelist's eye for small, perfect moments. His newest book is The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work.

In 2008, de Botton helped start the School of Life in London, a social enterprise determined to make learning and therapy relevant in today's uptight culture. His goal is (through any of his mediums) to help clients learn "how to live wisely and well."

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